Wednesday, August 06, 2014

misundertaking Matthew: "If your brother offends you" ?

Before reading this post, I recommend watching this vintage episode of an award-winning series.
Keep an eye out for the character (?) I play:
a Bible-quoting..and Bible-throwing... pastor who loves Matthew 18 too much.

I'll see you after the fine film.

SOOO... If I can't find anyone to blame, I often say,
 "It's San Andreas' fault." (:

In the common  mistranslation,
                                        and misundertaking..

 of Matthew 18..

for once.. it's not King James' fault.
                         This time, it's Douay-Rheims' fault.
They translate:

15 But if thy brother shall offend against thee, go, and rebuke him between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou shalt gain thy brother. 16 And if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more: that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand. 17 And if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican.

If you would ask most evangelicals to fill in the blank below, I think they would say "offend""

"If your brother ___against you... .tell it to the church"

Why is that?  How did that happen?  The Greek is clear: ἁμαρτήσῃ=sins.
Maybe the Dhouay-Rheims sounds King James-y enough that it must be true  (Ironic that it's a Catholic translation, and many fundies are quoting it).  And it is, like many KJV problems, a matter of how language/words havechanged  ("Suffer the little children," anyone?  Don;t get me started on "avoid the appearance of evil"..)

Compare translations (link), and note that almost all translate "sin against you."
Even King James.

Side note..One translation (BBE) could be problematic (if anyone actually used it):
"If your brother does wrong to you"  works (as in "he does you wrong" by sinning against you), but it can be misread as what he does is only wrong to you (as in "in your opinion, he  does wrong), not towards you.

In our day, Christians disagreeing with each other over differences in denomination, doctrine, weaker brother/sister issues. preferred Bible translation, ecclesiology, tattoos, view of Rob Bell ... or  (gasp!) politics is enough for them to diss or divorce each other. We get  so defensive and so offended.  And we can quote chapter and verse  to unfriend or excommunicate we think.

Whatsup with that?

One way to read Matthew 18 is as cluster of answers to the disciples' question at the top of the act: "Who's great?"  Jesus answers rabbinically:

 Question #1: Who is Greatest?

2-17 Responses (each are counter proposals)2-10 Response #1: Children2-4 Counter Proposal: Accept children5-9 Threat: If cause scandal10 Show of force: Angels protect12-14 Response #2: Sheep12-14 Counter Proposal: Search for the 1 of 100 who is lost15-17 Response #3Brother who sins (counter proposal)15a Hypothetical situation: If sin15-17 Answer: Attempt to get brother to be reconciled17b If fail: Put him out and start over  -Camp/Roberts, Fresno Pacific University
N. T. Wright, commenting on this passage:

"It's time in today's culture that we took reconciliation seriously."  (Matthew for Everyone, Vol 2, p. 34)

Gee, why didn't be say , "It's time in today's culture that we took confronting brothers and sisters who offend us theologically or politically seriously."??

----------------Read verses 15-17 and then ask yourself:
"What did it mean in their historical world to treat  people like

"tax collectors and sinners?"
Two answers

1)Don't allow them in your bounded set.

2)How did Jesus treat  tax collectors and sinners? In a centered set way. Tony Jones writes: 

but because anyone, including Trucker Frank, can speak freely in this  church, my seminary-trained eyes were opened to find a truth in the Bible that had previously eluded me.”...That truth emerged in a discussion of Matthew 18's "treat the unrepentant brother like a tax collector or sinner.":
"And how did Jesus treat tax collectors and pagans?" Frank asked aloud, pausing, "as of for a punchline he'd been waiting all his life to deliver,"....., "He welcomed them!""

More on Trucker Frank here; he can interrupt my sermons anytime..

Hey, if you must have King James, and want a verse on an offending brother, how about this  or this?

In conclusion, some outtakes featuring the offensive sinning brother from the video at top:

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